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Last Updated on May 27, 2019

How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts

How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts

In a world that is full of external factors that we cannot control, it is becoming more and more important to at least control ourselves.

Thinking positively can have a tremendous effect on our lives. By eliminating negative thoughts, we’re able to at least influence the part of our lives that we can control: our own mindset.

In this article, you will learn how to think positive and ditch the negative thoughts. Before we dive into the step-by-step guide on how to do so, I’d like to share with you how I learned to thinking positive the hard way…

How I Learned to Think Positive

At the start of 2019, I was quite stressed at work with multiple tight deadlines. I was constantly worried and the stress was affecting my ability to sleep. Numerous nights in a row, I would experience insomnia, where I had a staring contest with the ceiling because my mind would simply not stop thinking about all the stressful things I had to deal with.

I eventually got up and wrote everything down. Every single thought that rushed through my head, I wrote it down in detail. This allowed me to do a couple of things:

  • It made everything relatable
  • It showed me that every obstacle that was on my mind was not that big on its own. I was only stressed because these obstacles were big in numbers, while independently, these obstacles were just minor things that I could overcome.
  • It allowed me to think positively about these little obstacles and how I was going to conquer them one at a time.
  • Writing down my negative emotions allowed me to wipe them clean from my mind. Think of it as a laptop: after having browsed for a long time, I was able to clear my RAM and start fresh. My mind was finally clear from negative thoughts.

After doing this, I was finally able to sleep, and the next day, I slowly started to tackle these small obstacles.

This is just one example of how I manage to think positively and eliminate negative thoughts from dominating my mind.

Here are other actionable steps you can follow in order to achieve the same thing.

Step 1: Turn Every Obstacle into Smaller “Challenges”

In the intro, you read that I was stressed because I was worrying about a big number of small obstacles as opposed to one big devastating obstacle. Writing down my worries allowed me to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.

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As a result, I observed my problems as single challenges that I could overcome.

When you’re currently surrounded with negativity – whether that’s because of a stressful project or problems in a relationship – you should try to dissect that challenge into different sub-challenges.

For example, if you have to deliver a huge presentation at work on Friday, try to think of this big task as multiple smaller tasks:

  • Find sources to support your presentation
  • Think of interesting anecdotes, introductions or examples
  • Create a general outline of your presentation
  • Complete the first 5 slides
  • Add a small video or puzzle to your presentation
  • Finish the presentation
  • Think of a keyword for each slide to remember what you have to say
  • Practice the presentation in order to finish it within 30 minutes
  • Deliver a great presentation

While this example may not be relevant to you, the message is all the same. You can tackle pretty much any obstacle – no matter how big it may seem – as long as you take it one step at the time.

That’s how you can eliminate negative thoughts such as “I can never do that” or “I’ll never be good enough” or “I’ll never reach that goal” from controlling your actions.

Take it one step at the time and pretty much any goal becomes manageable.

Step 2: Realize That Positive Thoughts Can Be a Choice

Happiness is determined as follows:[1]

  • 50% is determined by genetics
  • 10% is determined by external factors
  • 40% is determined by your own outlook

This determination has been studied by numerous researchers, and while the details differ, the results all share the same observation:

Your happiness can be influenced by your own thoughts.

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Even though there are things in life that we cannot control, we can still often control how we react to these things.

In that sense, we might not get to control 100% of our happiness but we can still influence a big chunk of it.

I believe we can learn to influence the 40% of our happiness that is determined by our own personal outlook. Happiness is a choice, and you can learn to recognize these situations on your own.[2]

How does this help you to think positive and eliminate negative thoughts?

Well, because this shows you that it pays off to learn how to think positively in difficult situations.

By developing this skill, you can really increase happiness in your life. It is definitely not always easy, but you can change a bad day into a good one just by focusing on the positives instead of the negatives.

This is the reason why I love this quote of Winston Churchill:

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Step 3: Spend Time with the People That Have a Positive Influence on Your Life and Be Grateful for Them

Almost everybody has a small circle of people that they trust and love, whether that’s a partner, family or friends. These people have a positive influence on your life.

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I want you to focus on spending more time with these people. When you’re surrounded by negativity, you are more likely to postpone activities that require you to be outgoing. You’d rather be lazy and watch Netflix all day than to go outside and meet up with your friend.

You must try to break out of your comfort zone and spend more time with the people who actually have a positive influence on your happiness. These people can act as a support net for the moments when you’re feeling down. This might sound intimidating and scary, but it’s a step that should not be underestimated.

Even when you don’t feel comfortable sharing your challenges with these people, there’s another thing you can actively do to initiate positive thoughts; and that’s to be grateful that these people are in your life:

  • Be grateful that you have parents who support you, no matter what you do.
  • Be grateful for the friends with whom you can laugh your ass off.
  • Be grateful that you have a healthy and loving partner.
  • Be grateful that you have a kid that looks up to you and thinks you are the best.

Being grateful might sound like a rather pointless thing to do. Why would being grateful help you in thinking more positively and eliminating negative thoughts?

Well, the answer is simple.

Being grateful forces you to think of the good things that you already have in your life. This allows you to face your issues with optimism, instead of negativity. People that actively practice gratitude are much better able to deal with toxic emotions.

So what do you have to do?

Go out there and meet up with the people you love, and be grateful for having these people in your life.

To help inspire you to feel more grateful, here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life.

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Step 4: Don’t Give up After a Setback

So you had a bad day last week? Or maybe a terrible week in which you allowed negative thoughts to control your life? Who cares!

We are only human, so we’re bound to experience a day of negativity every once in a while. It’s important to realize that everybody occasionally experiences negative thoughts in their life. Eternal happiness does not exist. Even the happiest man alive has experienced negativity and sadness on some days.

What you need to when this inevitably happens to you:

  • Don’t let this set you back.
  • Don’t interpret it as a failure
  • Don’t let it stop you from trying to think positive

You see, even the most optimistic person experiences negativity on occasion. Sure, we can try to be as positive as possible every day, but we have to accept that negativity is something that we have to deal with from time to time.

So what if you’re engulfed in negative thoughts today? Screw it and know that tomorrow is a new day and that you can try to work on this again.

Take a look at this article and learn about Why Negative Emotions Aren’t That Bad (And How to Handle Them).

Final Thoughts

In the end, there’s no arguing that we cannot control 100% of our happiness. We can’t stand in front of a mirror, repeat the words “I am thinking happy thoughts only” ninety-nine times and accept to suddenly be happy.

It doesn’t work like that.

However, there are a number of things we can do to at least improve our mindset in the situations where we do get to choose how we react to external factors.

I hope that you have a better idea of what you can do in these situations. Sooner than later, you will influence your own mindset to think positively and to eliminate negative thoughts.

More Articles About Positivity And Happiness

Featured photo credit: Lucas Marconnet via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] For a State of Happiness: Happiness: it’s not just your genes, stupid!
[2] Tracking Happiness: How Happiness Can Be A Choice

More by this author

Hugo Huyer

Author at Tracking Happiness, lifelong happiness tracker and passionate about all things mental health and well-being.

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Last Updated on June 24, 2019

Why Social Media Might Be Causing Depression

Why Social Media Might Be Causing Depression

A study [1] published in Depression and Anxiety found that social media users are more likely to be depressed. This was just one of the huge number of studies linking social media and depression[2] . But why exactly do platforms like Facebook and Instagram make people so unhappy? Well, we don’t know yet for sure, but there are some explanations.

Social Media Could Lead to Depression

Depression is a serious medical condition that affects how you think, feel, and behave. Social media may lead to depression in predisposed individuals or make existing symptoms of depression[3] worse explains[4] the study above’s senior author Dr. Brian Primack. So, the problem may not be in social media per se, but how we use it.

Signs You’re Suffering From “Social Media Depression”

If you feel like social media is having a negative impact on your mood, then you may be suffering from “social media depression.” Look for symptoms like:

• low self-esteem,

• negative self-talk,

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• a low mood,

• irritability,

• a lack of interest in activities once enjoyed,

• and social withdrawal.

If you’ve had these symptoms for more than two weeks and if this is how you feel most of the time, then you are likely depressed. Although “social media depression “is not a term recognized in the medical setting, social media depression seems to be a real phenomenon affecting around 50% of social media users. As explained in a review study[5] published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, if a person has a certain predisposition to depression and other mental disorders, social media use may only worsen their mental health.

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Social Media Could Crush Self-Esteem

We know that social media and depression are in some way linked, but why is this so? Well, according to Igor Pantic, MD, Ph.D.[6], social media use skews your perception about other people’s lives and traits. To explain this further, most people like to portray an idealized image of their lives, personal traits, and appearance on sites like Facebook and Instagram. If you confuse this idealized image with reality, you may be under the false impression that everyone is better than you which can crush your self-esteem and lead to depression. This is especially true for teens and young adults who are more likely to compare themselves to others. If you already suffer from low self-esteem, the illusion that everyone has it better off than you will just make you feel worse.

Causing Social Isolation and Other Negative Emotions

Another commonly cited reason for the negative impact of social media on mental health is its link with social isolation. Depressed people are more likely to isolate themselves socially and chose only to interact indirectly through social media platforms. But communication online tends to be superficial and is lacking when compared to real-life interaction explains Panic. What this means is not that social media leads to isolation but the other way around, possibly explaining why we find so many depressed persons on these sites.

Lastly, social media use may generate negative emotions in you like envy, jealousy, dislike, loneliness, and many others and this may worsen your depressive symptoms.

Why We Need to Take This Seriously

Both depression and social media use are on the rise according to epidemiological studies. Since each one has an impact on the other, we have to start thinking of healthier ways to use social media. Teens and young adults are especially vulnerable to the negative impact of social media on mental health.

Advice on Social Media Use

Although these findings did not provide any cause-effect explanation regarding Facebook and depression[7], they still do prove that social media use may not be a good way to handle depression. For this reason, the leading authors of these studies gave some suggestions as to how clinicians and people can make use of such findings.

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One suggestion is that clinicians should ask patients about their social media habits. Then they can advise them on how to change their outlook on social media use or even suggest limiting their time spent on social media.

Some social media users may also exhibit addictive behavior; they may spend too much time due to compulsive urges. Any compulsive behavior is bound to lead to feelings of guilt which can worsen depressive symptoms.

Having Unhealthy Relationship with Social Media

If you feel like your relationship with social media is unhealthy, then consider the advice on healthy social media use provided by psychology experts from Links Psychology[8]:

Avoid negative social comparison – always keep in mind that how people portray themselves and their lives on social media is not a realistic picture, but rather an idealized one. Also, avoid comparing yourself to others because this behavior can lead to negative self-talk.

Remember that social media is not a replacement for real life – Social media is great for staying in touch and having fun, but it should never replace real-world interactions.

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Avoid releasing personal information – For your safety and privacy, make sure to be careful with what you post online.

Report users who bully and harass you – It’s easy to be a bully in the anonymous and distant world of social media. Don’t take such offense personally and report those who abuse social media to harass others.

The bits of advice listed above can help you establish a healthy relationship with social media. Always keep these things in mind to avoid losing an objective perspective of what social media is and how it is different from real life. If you are currently suffering from depression, talk to your doctor about what is bothering you so that you can get the treatment you need to get better. Tell your doctor about your social media use and see if they could give you some advice on this topic.

Reference

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